Apple is set to apply deep changes on its iOS platform with the release of iOS 17.4 in March 2024, including a suite of new features and regulations specifically tailored for the European Union. This update is a response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act, aiming to provide developers with more flexibility while ensuring user privacy and security.
Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow, emphasized the company’s commitment to compliance and user protection, stating: “The changes we’re announcing today comply with the Digital Markets Act’s requirements in the European Union, while helping to protect EU users from the unavoidable increased privacy and security threats this regulation brings.”
Under the new framework, developers will have access to a variety of tools and terms for alternative app distribution and payment processing. Notably, Apple is introducing new fees and allowing alternative browser engines and contactless payment methods. Schiller highlighted the choice given to developers, saying they can opt to stick with the current business terms if they prefer.
A significant change is Apple’s decision to notarize all iOS apps, regardless of the sales platform, enhancing user security. However, this does not extend to the comprehensive App Store Review currently provided by Apple. Developers wishing to establish their own marketplaces must undergo Apple’s approval process, which includes demonstrating a human review system for apps.
For apps distributed outside the App Store, Apple will not handle refunds, and certain features like Family Purchase Sharing and Ask to Buy won’t be available. Once a third-party app marketplace is approved, developers can release streaming games through it, bypassing the need for individual game submissions.
From the user standpoint, iOS 17.4 introduces significant changes. Users will be prompted for permission to add a marketplace and can revoke it later. They will also see an App Installation Sheet before installing apps from alternative stores, displaying crucial information. Payment options are expanded, allowing purchases through the App Store, alternative services, or direct links on developers’ websites. Additionally, users can set a third-party app marketplace as their default App Store and select a third-party contactless payment app.
Another major shift is the relaxation of the WebKit engine requirement for browsers, giving developers the freedom to use alternative browser engines.
Regarding new fees for EU developers, Apple is reducing its standard commission from 30% to 17% for apps sold via the App Store. Apps previously charged at 15% will now see a reduced rate of 10%. Additionally, a Core Technology Fee of 0.5 Euro per first app install annually will be introduced, with exemptions for educational, non-profit, and governmental organizations. Developers opting to remain in the App Store can choose to pay an additional 3% for Apple’s payment processing services.
Apple’s data indicates that 88% of active EU developers currently pay no fee, with around 9% paying the 15% rate. Post-changes, 99% of developers are expected to pay the same or less in fees.
These changes, set to go live in the EU in March 2024, are currently available for developers in a beta version of iOS 17.4.